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james laube's wine flights

Angling for Sushi in St. Helena

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Oct 17, 2006 2:21pm ET

On Sunday night I hooked up for dinner with my colleague Harvey Steiman and Australian winemaker Michael Twelftree.

We dined at Cindy Pawlcyn’s new restaurant, Go Fish, south of St. Helena, in the building most recently occupied by Pinot Blanc.

Go Fish is what it sounds like—an upscale seafood, sushi and sake bar. Open, airy and Napa Valley and Pawlcyn casual, it, like Thomas Keller’s new digs at Ad Hoc, is a welcome addition to the ever-changing Napa Valley dining scene.

Harvey will no doubt have more to say about the food in his blog, which for the most part was delicious—especially the seviche (with corn nuts), barbecued oysters, sushi rolls (soft shell crab and rainbow), halibut cheeks and black cod in a miso broth.

Twelftree, who makes a wide range of wines under the Two Hands label, brought all the wines, and he is one first-class collector. He keeps three cellars, including one at home and one in Napa Valley, so he doesn’t have to lug his wines all over the globe.

He’s making wine in Napa, with Thomas Brown, from the old Chateau Chevalier Cabernet vineyard on Spring Mountain. The 2005 barrel sample he poured was supple and elegant.

Twelftree is also keen on viticultural practices in Napa, saying that Australians are well behind when it comes to grooming their vines. He was surprised to see so much hand and berry sorting before crushing.

His wine lineup had one superstar, a 1999 Egon Müller Riesling Auslese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Scharzhofberger 1999, a delightfully elegant, sweet and floral white that was clean and refreshing, ideal for the sushi entrées.

A Leroy Corton-Charlemagne 2001 looked and tasted oxidized.

Next came a pair of Pinot Noirs. The first was the much talked about 2004 Rivers Marie Sonoma Coast Summa Vineyard and a 2003 Bell Hill Canterbury, from New Zealand.

The Rivers Marie, a new label from the ubiquitous Brown, was good, sleek and restrained, with an earthy edge. It tasted better with food, but it didn’t excite me.

The Bell Hill, though, featured fresh, vibrant wild strawberry flavors and the three of us preferred it to the Rivers Marie.

We also tried the 2005 Two Hands Barossa Valley Bella’s Garden, which delivered a tight, lively beam of blueberry boysenberry and huckleberry.

Huckleberries also appeared on one of our desserts.

Hoyt Hill Jr
Nashville, TN —  October 17, 2006 4:28pm ET
JamesDid you think the Corton Charlemagne was a poorly stored bottle or a bad wine?
James Laube
Napa, CA —  October 17, 2006 6:35pm ET
I think it was a poorly stored bottle and so did Michael, but I don't drink this kind of wine very often.
Jeffrey Ghi
New York —  October 18, 2006 9:08am ET
What other wines do you typically match with sushi? I find that some wines will bring out that unpleasant "fishy" flavor in certain cuts of fish.
Apj Powers
Dallas, TX —  October 19, 2006 2:00am ET
What are your thoughts, if any, on his 2005 Yesterday's Hero Grenache? When people ask me about Pinots on my list I'll sometimes throw it out there at the end as an alternative. I've gotten some bites and then some great responses. A bit fuller, sweeter/jammy and spicier than a pinot maybe, but worth a try for the adventurous.
Bill Terlato
Lake Forest, IL —  October 19, 2006 7:54pm ET
We love Champagne with sushi and generally wines with crisp acidity to balance the fattiness of the fish.

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